September 27, 2021
Country music superstars came together to honor the groundbreaking African-American Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride for the CMT Giants: Charley Pride television special, which aired on Wednesday night (Aug. 25).
The special- filmed earlier this year at Ascend Amphitheater- celebrates the life of Pride, who died in December 2020 from COVID-19 related complications at the age of 86. The musical tribute to trail blazer's life and legacy featured special performances from Alan Jackson, Darius Rucker, Dion Pride, Garth Brooks, George Strait, Gladys Knight, Jimmie Allen, Lee Ann Womack, Mickey Guyton, and more.
As Pride's name flashes across the stage, Mickey Guyton kicked off the show with her moving take on “I'm Just Me,” backed by a full country band. She then spoke on the impact that Pride’s career had on her journey as a black woman in country music.
"Charley Pride impacts almost every space I occupy as an artist and as a person," Guyton said. "The maturity and self-assurance that defined how he and his family lived their lives allowed Charley to change the face of country music by merely being himself."
Guyton was just the first artist of the lineup to praise Pride. Jimmie Allen's performance of "All I Have To Offer You (Is Me)," Gladys Knight's take on "Roll On Mississippi," Darius Rucker’s performance of “Someone Loves You Honey,” Lee Ann Womack cover of “Crystal Chandeliers,” and George Strait's cover of "Is Anybody Goin' To San Antone" were powerful performances honoring late Country Music Hall of Famer.
In a heartwarming family moment, Dion Pride also took the stage to perform a country-rock take on his father's 1981 hit “Mountain of Love,”
Following the younger Pride, Reyna Roberts- a member of CMT's 2021 Next Women of Country- performed “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” with Luke Combs and Robert Randolph. "Kiss An Angel Good Morning" was Pride's eighth No. 1 country single in 1971 and a defining hit from his career that broke out of country music to achieve pop success and achieved the pinnacle of timelessness.
"Discovering Charley Pride unlocks the magic of why the great country songs last forever," Combs said. "If you've ever been in a room, at a party of sittin' in a bar when this song plays, though you may not know it — you're continuing to spread the power of his legacy just by singing along."
The night came to a close with Garth Brook's rowdy rendition of 1978's "When I Stop Leaving (I'll Be Gone).”
Charley Pride was born to sharecroppers in rural Sledge, Mississippi in 1934. Through his determination, artistry, and talent,worked his way to become country music's first Black star and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Over his five-decade career, Pride sang 52 top-ten Billboard hits, became a member of the Grand Ole Opry, won the 1971 Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year award, won the top male vocalist prize two years in a row, and earned a Lifetime Achievement Award shortly before his death.
Charley Pride's impact on country music and American culture has been profound and lasting. His musical repertoire will be just a small part of his greater legacy of breaking down barriers to people of color in America.
Pride put it best himself in his memoir: "We're not color blind yet, but we've advanced a few paces along the path, and I like to think I've contributed something to that process.”
He was not the first Black artist to impact country music, but his rise to popularity during a time of intense division and strife catalyzed country music's movement towards acceptance. Today, Balck artists including Allen, Rucker, Guyton and others are adding new chapters to country music's story due in no small part to the doors opened by the legendary beloved American icon: Charley Pride.